Black Wall Street

Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Destroyed 1921

The Disappointed Tourist: Black Wall Street, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

“Black Wall Street” or the Greenwood district of Tulsa, was one of the most successful majority black communities of its time. It was destroyed in two days in 1921 by a white mob that had assembled to lynch Dick Rowland, an African-American teenager held in the jail on suspicion of assaulting a white fellow elevator operator, even though she had declined to press charges. Shooting started after armed Black residents arrived to support the sheriff. What was eventually called the “Tulsa Race Riot”, “The Black Wall Street Massacre” or the “Greenwood Massacre,” included machine gun and aerial attacks on the community resulting in the loss of almost 200 businesses, a school, several churches and over a thousand homes. Estimates of the total loss of Black life range from 55 to 300; there were only 13 white casualties. According to the Red Cross, 183 Black people were hospitalized, 531 required first aid and 10,000 people were left homeless. Despite the indictment of 85 individuals, no one was convicted nor were the victims compensated. In 1996, the State Legislature created the Tula Race Massacre Commission to create an official account of the event. The Commission’s recommendation that reparations be paid was ignored but a memorial park was created, as were scholarships for some of the descendants. I don’t know who took the photograph on which this painting was based.

An effective and very successful effort to disenfranchise the Black community that still resonates today!  Nicole A.

Also requested by Anon.